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Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The Good Shepherd
    Photo from: Attila the Hungry 
Gr. ant (on fire), anthracite (coal), Eng anthrax, malignant carbunculosis, carbuncle. It is also called Woolsorters' or Ragpickers' disease because of their exposure to animal products. It is an acute infectious disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, spore-forming bacterium. Anthrax is a highly contagious disease contracted by direct contact with the skin, inhalation, or consuming undercooked meat containing infected spores of herbivorous animals suffering from this disease. The most vulnerable humans are those working with wild and domestic cattle, goats, sheep, antelopes or camels or those exposed to their products. The symptoms of the disease appear within a week after it is contracted. The disease may enter through a cut in the skin of one working with contaminated hair, hides, leather or wool of infected animals. At first, it appears to be an itchy insect bite that within one or two days becomes a vesicle and then a painless ulcer with a charcoal black scab. The Greek word for anthrax refers to the "boiling," a sensation that the sufferer of this disease has under the skin, like burning coal or anthracite. The lesion within one or two days  becomes red hot and hard. A crown of blisters may appear and a charcoal black scab. Those carrying hides on their backs often develop skin lesions there and on their necks and faces through which the disease is contracted. 

1880s Cartoon of Death in the...
Photo from: specialcollectionsbradford
The bacterium spread to the lymph nodes causing inflammation there. Today 80% of cutaneous anthrax can be cured with early treatment but not in the Middle Ages. It was fatal. Anthrax contracted by inhalation at first seems to be a cold. The symptoms develop into severe breathing problems, shock and death. Intestinal anthrax causes severe inflammation of the intestinal tract. The patient suffers from nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting blood and acute diarrhea. Today 25-60% die from it. The rate of those becoming ill from the bacterium has dropped enormously since the first invention of a vaccine for animals against it in 1881 by Louis Pasteur. Did the Good Shepherd die of anthrax?

Arnold de Vilanova, in the 13th C, however, directed that people should not eat raw fruit because it is spider food. He concluded that they spoil the flesh, which produces anthrax among other illnesses. As a result, fruits were cooked as seen in medieval recipes for fruit. See landres. [ES: “Anthrax.” DBMD. May 2, 03; ES: “Anthrax information.” Oct 26, 03; ES: Wertelecki. Oct 26, 03; Gázquez. Cocina. 2002:251; Nola. 1989:xvi-1:xvi-2]

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For 4 persons


1 1/3 lb black and/or white fresh figs[2]
1 ½ qts chicken or mutton broth
1 shaving ginger
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 pinch white pepper
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch mace
1 pinch nutmeg
¼ tsp saffron (if black figs used to give them a yellow tone)
1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp sugar
Meritage - Pork Rillette with Fig Puree
Photo from: Austin Lindstrom
1 tbsp cinnamon

Wash the figs well, cut off the stems and peel them. Heat a frying pan, add the lard and when melted gently fry bacon. When done, set the bacon aside and sauté the figs. Add the broth little by little to the figs. Simmer for 1 ½ hrs. While cooking, add spices and sugar. After about 45 minutes, start beating the mixture with a whisk often until thick. Taste it for salt and sweet and sourness. Add crumpled bacon. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. When ready to serve sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. It should be like a purée.

[1] Nola says that this can be eaten as hors d'oeuvres. Also, it is a good accompaniment with pork or lamb.
[2] If dried figs are used, soak them for one hour before sautéing.

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